How the Yankees Stack up vs. Division Foes

About a year ago I wrote an article comparing the Yankees to their four division rivals at each position. Due to that article receiving good feedback I have decided to do the same. We know how 2015 ended, the Yankees made the play in game and were dominated by Houston Astros ace Dallas Keuchel. The Yankees went into the offseason at a bit of a crossroads. They addressed some issues and made drastic improvements while other needs have been left untouched by Yankees ownership.

The team acquired talented but troubled closer Aroldis Chapman from the Reds. Chapman will take over the 9th inning role while being set up by stars Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances. That easily made the Yankees have the best late inning combo in baseball. Regardless of your opinion of Chapman the move was a stellar one for the Bronx Bombers because it has shortened games to six innings. This is huge because the Yankees rotation has a couple of huge question marks in it right now. GM Brian Cashman decided to leave his rotation the same and strengthen his bullpen.  The team also went out and dealt the versatile relief pitcher Adam Warren and utility infielder Brendan Ryan to the Cubs in exchange for young infielder Starlin Castro. Castro will take over duties at 2nd base as last years 2nd baseman Stephen Drew signed a deal with the Nationals earlier this offseason. (I know Yankee fans are all heartbroken to see Drew go).

An area the team still should look at is improving the rotation, there has been tons of speculation that they would deal Brett Gardner to bring in some rotation depth but so far no such deal has come to fruition. It is important to remember there is still time for the Yankees to make more improvements but Spring Training is just around the corner.

The Yankees will play the Orioles, Rays, Red Sox and Blue Jays each eighteen times in 2016, if the Yanks want to get further than the wild card play in game it is vital that they play well vs. these four teams. So lets take a look on how they stack up against their divisional foes.

Catcher: Brian McCann vs. Matt Wieters (BAL), Blake Swihart (BOS), Rene Rivera (TB) and Russell Martin (TOR)

McCann in my opinion right now is the top dog at this position. Russell Martin is close behind and had a fine season North of the border. Swihart projects to be a stud but is still t0o young to be put ahead of McCann. Three years ago Matt Wieters would have walked away as the best but injuries have slowed his career down drastically and forced him to accept a qualifying offer this offseason. Rivera is a fine defensive catcher but doesn’t possess much of a bat, he’ll likely split time with youngster Curt Casalli for the Rays this year. McCann and Martin both handle their respective staffs very well but McCann’s offensive ability and playing 81 games with the short porch make him the best catcher in the AL East.

RANKS: McCann, Martin, Swihart, Wieters, Rivera

Catcher Winner: Yankees

1st Base: Mark Teixeira vs. Chris Davis (BAL), Hanley Ramirez (BOS), James Loney (TB) and Chris Colabello (TOR)

Tex probably would have eclipsed 40 Tex messages had injuries not cut his season short. People have been writing Teixeira off due to the emergence of youngster Greg Bird. Bird did a fantastic job replacing Teixeira but if healthy Teixeira is still one of the best in the game and the job should be his. Davis just signed a huge contract with Baltimore and rivals Tex on the offensive side of the ball. When healthy Ramirez is one of the top hitters in baseball, however he is transitioning to a new position and is coming off an injury plagued 2015 season. Right now he is a gigantic question mark for Boston. James Loney is a what you see is what you get type player, he is going to give you above average defense and will put the ball in play. Loney does the little things well but has never been able to produce that wow factor. Colabello will split time with Justin Smoak giving the Jays a nice platoon at first. Colabello is coming off a career year and really was a driving force in a elite Toronto lineup. In my opinion this category comes down to Teixeira and Davis. While Tex might be a better all around player his injury history and age gives Davis a slight edge.

RANKS: Davis, Teixeira, Colabello, Ramirez, Loney

1st Base Winner: Orioles

2nd Base: Starlin Castro vs. Johnathan Schoop (BAL), Dustin Pedroia (BOS), Logan Forsythe (TB) and Ryan Goins (TOR)

Castro for the first time in his young career will be playing for a team other than the Cubs. He’s still so young and has improved year after year. He will be a table setter for the Yankees at the top of their lineups. His line drive ability will play well in the power ally of Yankee Stadium. Schoop, Forsythe and Goins are all nice players. They are important parts of each of their teams but aren’t the caliber of player that Castro and Boston’s Dustin Pedroia is. Despite a season plagued with injuries Pedroia is still one of the best 2nd baseman in the game and someone that plays with his heart on his sleeve. It’s hard for anyone to surpass him in all around play but Castro will certainly try, in the end the savvy veteran Pedroia eeks out Castro for the win.

RANKS: Pedroia, Castro, Forsythe, Schoop, Goins

2nd Base Winner: Red Sox

3rd Base: Chase Headley vs. Manny Machado (BAL), Pablo Sandoval (BOS), Evan Longoria (TB) and Josh Donaldson (TOR)

Headley never had a chance in this one. This position might have the biggest wow factor in terms of names. Headley’s first full season in New York was not a good one. He became a popular target for the fans to blame for the teams struggles. Longoria is the veteran member of the group and while he is declining he still is the Rays star. Sandoval had a abysmal first season in Boston but looks to finally be in shape and poised for a bounce back year. Machado is one of the games brightest young stars albeit with some attitude issues. At their best none of them compare with the AL MVP and star of the Blue Jays Josh Donaldson. Donaldson brought the rain from Oakland to Toronto last year and lead the Jays to a division titles. He runs away with a victory for Canada here.

RANKS: Donaldson, Machado, Longoria, Sandoval, Headley

3rd Base Winner: Blue Jays

Shortstop: Didi Gregorius vs. JJ Hardy (BAL), Xander Bogaerts (BOS) Brad Miller (TB) and Troy Tulowitzki (TOR)

Sir Didi had a nice first season with the Yankees, it is hard being the guy that replaces Derek Jeter but Gregorius did a fine job. One huge knock on Didi was his lack of driving runners in scoring position home. Something Captain Clutch always had a knack for. Miller is coming to TB from Seattle should transition nicely to the Rays who like to play small ball. Hardy had a down year and certainly didn’t live up to the deal he signed in the 2014 playoffs. Bogaerts had a break out campaign and was one of the few bright spots the Red Sox had in 2015. Everyone and their mother knows how good a player Tulowitzki is. His problem is staying healthy but he never seemed to get it going in Toronto. He and Bogaerts will battle it out for the top spot  as the AL East’s top SS.

RANKS: Bogaerts, Tulowitzki, Gregorius, Hardy, Miller

Shortstop Winner: Red Sox

Left Field: Brett Gardner vs. Nolan Reimold (BAL), Rusney Castillo (BOS), Desmond Jennings (TB) and Michael Saunders (TOR)

Gardner was an All Star in 2015 because of a excellent first half. As per usual with him though he was nowhere to be found in the second half. Luckily for Gardner this is the weakest positional battle in the division. Jennings has glimpses of being a very good player but then lands on the DL one way or the other. Castillo has tons of raw talent but really needs to be molded. He will likely split time with Chris Young in Boston’s outfield. Reimold and Saunders are about as average a player as you can get. They’re vanilla ice cream, nothing special but it does the job. Miraculously Gardner takes home the victory.

RANKS: Gardner, Jennings, Castillo, Saunders, Reimold

Left Field Winner: Yankees

Center Field: Jacoby Ellsbury vs. Adam Jones (BAL), Mookie Betts (BOS), Kevin Kiermaier (TB) and Kevin Pillar (TOR)
Ellsbury was having a fine 2015 before missing a month midway through the season. He never seemed to be able to recover from that and wasn’t the player he is capable of being. Jones is a superstar and has had a lock on CF in this division for years. Mookie Betts is one of the most exciting young players in the game a great leadoff hitter for the Red Sox. Kiermaier and Pillar both play phenomenal defense but haven’t had their offensive game catch up to their defensive ability yet. All five are terrific outfielders but it is Jones who for the time being is still the King in center.

RANKS: Jones, Betts, Ellsbury, Pillar, Kiermaier

Center Field Winner: Orioles

Right Field: Carlos Beltran vs. Ryan Flaherty (BAL), Jackie Bradley Jr (BOS), Steven Souza Jr and Jose Bautista (TOR)

After a sub artic cold first half of the season Beltran was arguably the Yankees best player down the stretch. Flaherty and Souza Jr each provide some pop but aren’t in the same tier as Beltran. Bradley is the best defensive player of the bunch by a landslide but he has yet to prove he can be a solid offensive player for an entire season. Bautista and his epic bat flips take the cake in right, at 35 he is still one of the most feared hitters in the game and has a cannon for a arm. Look for him to feast on AL East pitching again in what could be his last year in Toronto.

RANKS: Bautista, Beltran, Bradley Jr, Flaherty, Souza Jr

Right Field Winner: Blue Jays

Designated Hitter: Alex Rodriguez vs. Mark Trumbo (BAL), David Ortiz (BOS), Logan Morrison (TB) and Edwin Encarnacion (TOR)

A-Rod was one of the most pleasant surprises in baseball last year. He went from villain to beloved in the eyes of most Yankee fans after a terrific offensive season that saw him pass Willie Mays on the all time homerun list as well as get hit number 3,000. This group boasts five guys who mash the ball. At the low end you have Morrison who will begin his first season as a Rays player, the most versatile of the group will provide the Rays with some thunder in their lineup. The O’s acquired Trumbo in case they were unable to re-sign Chris Davis, the two will provide a lot of right handed thump in the middle of Baltimore’s order. David Ortiz will be retiring at years end and is coming off another great year. The ageless Ortiz will undoubtedly continue to be Boston’s top force and go out on top of his game. Encarnacion is just another long ball threat in Toronto’s lineup whose power makes for some majestic moonshots. This is a tough matchup as A-Rod, Ortiz and Encarnacion all deserve consideration but Ortiz is arguably the greatest DH in history and has a knack for coming through when his team needs it the most.

RANKS: Ortiz, Rodriguez, Encarnacion, Trumbo, Morrison

Designated Hitter Winner: Red Sox

Bench: Aaron Hicks, Dustin Ackley, Gary Sanchez (NYY) vs. (BAL) Jimmy Paredes, Joey Rickard, Caleb Joseph | (BOS) Ryan Hanigan, Brock Holt, Chris Young | (TB) Brandon Guyer, Curt Casalli, Travis Beckham | (TOR) Justin Smoak, Josh Thole, Dalton Pompey

The battle of the benches is always an interesting battle. Each team has a few question marks and a few solid players. Extra inning games can be one by the guys on the bench, they are often the unsung hero and are invaluable parts of championship teams. It’s hard to pick a real winner in this case but from the way things stand now I would give the edge to Boston just because they have the most well known and proven players.

RANKS: Red Sox, Yankees, Blue Jays, Rays, Orioles

Bench Winner: Red Sox

We’ll get to the rotation and the bullpens in the upcoming weeks but for now this is a look at how the Yankees stack up vs. their division. Obviously tons of things can happen between now and opening day but from the looks of this it appears that the division will be neck and neck as all five have certain strengths and weaknesses.

Agree or disagree? Let us know, give your rankings and see how they compare.

One thing is for sure, opening day can’t get here fast enough

By: Matt Cote
Follow me on Twitter: @MCote31
Follow us on Twitter: @BronxBomberBlog

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